Michael Curzon

Unvaccinated Australians Will Be Barred From Major Sporting Events

Australians will soon need to have proof of full vaccination to visit major sporting venues as state premiers prepare the ground for the introduction of vaccine passports. The Premier of New South Wales said in a press conference on Monday: “Any incentives we can provide to encourage people to get vaccinated and stick to the health restrictions, that is our priority.” Mail Australia has the story.

Plans are already underway to make vaccine passports mandatory in New South Wales while a similar approach is being considered in Victoria.

Fans will need to have both Covid jabs to visit a stadium and watch big sporting events like the NRL, AFL, or cricket.

Venues NSW Chairman Tony Shepherd will put forward his proposal to the State Government in the next few weeks and hopes they will be approved by next year. 

“If you choose not to have the jab that is your civil right in a free country but the Delta strain is extremely transmissible and we need to do something to reopen our stadiums,” he told the Daily Telegraph

“The venues will have to say you can’t attend. Simple as that.” …

[Victoria] Premier Daniel Andrews said at a press conference on July 21st that officials would make an “informed discussion” about reopening games to vaccinated residents.

“[The vaccine] will be here September, October, November… then I think we can have an informed discussion and say: ‘Right, we’re at X%, here’s all the benefits that might flow from that’,” he said. 

The Premier said vaccinated fans being able to attend games would be part of a wider attempt to incentivise people to get the jab.

Worth reading in full.

Slowing Vaccine Take-Up Means 170,000 Moderna Doses at Risk of Expiry

The NHS is looking to redistribute thousands of Covid vaccine doses as slowing take-up rates among young Britons, who don’t appear to be moved by petty bribes, could result in doses being thrown away after reaching their expiry dates. The Guardian has the story.

An internal email seen by the Guardian warned of 170,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine at risk of expiry within the next fortnight, as doctors across England have raised alarm at the unpredictability of vaccine take-up among young people meaning more doses will go to waste.

The Government is to unveil a raft of new initiatives to increase vaccine uptake among young people, including discounts on car-hailing companies such as Uber and Bolt, as well as the delivery service Deliveroo.

It is understood the NHS has managed to redistribute 40,000 of the spare Moderna jabs. However, concerns have been raised about the number of jabs wasted as uptake slows among younger people eligible for the Moderna and Pfizer jabs.

The Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation recommends an interval of eight to 12 weeks between doses, initially as a way to offer more people first doses because of limited supply, but studies have since shown that the larger gap could give longer protection.

One NHS doctor in the north-east, Dr Alison George, said colleagues had been forced to routinely discard Pfizer doses, rather than give second shots early to people who requested them. “We have very high rates of infection here and the local hospital is already under significant pressure with some elective surgery cancelled,” the GP said. …

Beccy Baird, a Senior Fellow at The King’s Fund, said it was getting more difficult to predict vaccine uptake.

“Uptake is getting lower as the cohorts get younger and matching the supply of vaccines to demand will get harder as demand becomes less predictable. This is made all the harder as the vaccines have a limited shelf life,” she said. …

“In the early stages of the rollout, you could be confident that wherever vaccines were delivered there would be sufficient demand for them. Now that a majority of adults have been vaccinated, and with uptake getting lower as the cohorts become younger, demand for the vaccine is more unpredictable, making it harder to know exactly where the doses are needed.” …

Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are now mostly distributed to the under-40s, who cannot receive the AstraZeneca vaccine. Those vaccines have a shorter shelf life of up to one month in the fridge, compared with the AstraZeneca vaccine, which can last for up to six months.

Worth reading in full.

One in 10 Pubs and Restaurants Forced to Close Last Month Due to ‘Pingdemic’

Hospitality venues were relying on the easing of restrictions on ‘Freedom Day’ to make up for their lockdown losses, but they’ve found that one set of restrictions has simply been replaced by another. The Chief Executive of U.K. Hospitality reports that one in 10 pubs and restaurants have been forced to close over the past month because of staff shortages caused by the ‘pingdemic‘. One in five venues has also had to “significantly adjust their offer or services” to cope with the continued disruption to business. MailOnline has the story.

The ‘pingdemic’ has seen record numbers of people being alerted by the NHS Covid app to self-isolate in recent weeks, including 700,000 for the week to July 21st.

The Government rolled out exemptions for workers it deems to be employed in critical industries, such as those in the food sector, transport and waste collection.

Daily negative test results can enable such workers who have been alerted by the app or called by NHS Test and Trace as Covid contacts to continue working.

Kate Nicholls [of U.K. Hospitality] told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “In the last month one in 10 of our businesses have had to close their sites and more importantly one in five have had to significantly adjust their offer or services in order to cope with the pandemic.”

She added: “The ‘pingdemic’ has hit at the same time as the reopening, they haven’t had time to rebuild cash reserves and so they are in quite a fragile state and the hit to revenues as a result of the pingdemic is running at about 15 to 20% of revenues for those businesses that are affected.

“So it is a significant suppression just at the point in time when these businesses needed to start recovering from about 16 months worth of closure and restrictions.” …

It comes as desperate councils are offering lorry drivers bonuses of £3,000 in a bid to clear the backlog of bin collections caused by the ‘pingdemic’.

Rubbish has piled up in many areas in recent weeks – with up to 40% of some local authority workforces having to isolate.

Some residents have been told to cut down on the amount of food that they throw out as piles of uncollected waste grow. 

Others have been asked not to put their bins out unless they are full, with collection services in dozens of areas running significantly behind schedule.

Separately, a new report has warned more than 1.1 million jobs remain unfilled as the pingdemic crisis worsens the shortage of workers.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: The Health Secretary has finally agreed to make the NHS Covid-tracking app less sensitive. Until now, it pinged people who’d been in contact with an infected person at any point during a five-day period before they tested positive; henceforth, that will be reduced to two days. MailOnline has the story.

Tens of Millions of Brits Will Be Offered Pfizer Booster Vaccine This Autumn

Millions of Brits, including the over-50s, people who are vulnerable, and NHS staff, will be offered a Pfizer booster vaccine this Autumn, even if their first two doses were from a different provider. MailOnline has the story.

Extra vaccines would be rolled out in two stages – prioritising those most at risk of Covid, before the programme is extended.

While patients were initially expected to be offered the jab they were originally inoculated with, it is understood all patients will be offered the Pfizer jab as it has proven to be the most effective against the Delta variant.

The Department of Health has yet to confirm the official details of the booster scheme, plans of which were first shared by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) in June.

The JCVI is expected to issue its final advice in regards to the booster scheme in the coming months. 

A senior Government source also told the Times that those who received the AstraZeneca vaccine would “be getting an mRNA booster”. …

A U.K. Government-backed study published earlier this year found that mixing and matching Covid vaccines may result in higher protection against the virus.

People who had been vaccinated with AstraZeneca’s jab initially and then received a top-up with Pfizer’s had nine times more antibodies than those who stuck to the U.K. vaccine. …

The Government said analysis has shown that the Pfizer vaccine is 96% effective against the Delta variant while the AstraZeneca vaccine is 92% effective against hospitalisation after two doses.

A study published this week also showed that a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine could offer strong protection against the Delta variant.

Worth reading in full.

Andrew Bridgen MP Criticises Government Over “Serious Infringement on People’s Liberties” Threatened by Vaccine Passports

Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen says vaccine passports represent a “serious infringement on people’s liberties” and that he doesn’t believe they will actually be introduced. He told LBC radio that, if the Government is serious about its plans, Parliament should be recalled so as to allow for proper scrutiny. He is quoted in the Guardian:

This is a very serious infringement on people’s liberties, it is basically unprecedented in this country, and I and a number of colleagues would oppose it.

I think it is a very blunt instrument, to threaten people with domestic Covid passports. I personally don’t think it would get through the House of Commons in any event and that’s why the Government has moved on to this ‘carrot’ inducements for young people.

Bridgen, an ally of Boris Johnson during the Brexit campaign, accused the Government of “trying to aggressively coerce these young people” into getting vaccinated but said plans would not pass through the House of Commons. He did, however, concede that the Government could introduce vaccine passports by other means. He told LBC:

If [the Government] uses the emergency powers, they probably could argue with lawyers that they could bring [vaccine passports] in without having a vote in the House of Commons. But I think that is a step far too far for Boris Johnson and this Government. …

If we can’t get out of this pandemic with our levels of vaccination and antibodies, there is very little chance for the rest of the world. They will be all watching what we do in the U.K. and I think going to domestic vaccine passports would be an authoritarian step far too far.

His comments follow criticism from within the Cabinet of plans to introduce vaccine passports, with one member saying: “It’s not who we are.”

Australia Uses Helicopters and the Army to Enforce Lockdown Rules

The enforcement of lockdown rules in Australia has jumped to another level, with the army knocking on doors to check that people who have tested positive are self-isolating and helicopters blaring the message: “This is public health order – do not break rules – you will be found and fines issued.”

Police are also checking IDs to ensure that citizens are not outside their ‘exercise radius‘, and those not wearing face masks are being hit with $500 fines. MailOnline has more.

[On Sautrday], up to 1,300 police officers swarmed Sydney and set up a network of roadblocks in a massive show of force to avoid a repeat of last week’s violent anti-lockdown protest.

Some 250 fines, each worth $500, were issued across the city today, with one man arrested after travelling on trains outside his local Government area without a reasonable excuse.

It comes after Prime Minister Scott Morrison had launched a four-stage plan back to freedom but said 80% of adults would have to be vaccinated before the border can begin to open.

Sydney’s five million people are under a strict stay-at-home order because of a worrying surge of nearly 3,000 infections since the middle of June.

Authorities have this week outlined even tighter restrictions for some worst-affected suburbs, including mandatory testing and mask-wearing outdoors. 

From Monday, some 300 army personnel will help police go door to door to ensure people who have tested positive are isolating. 

New South Wales Police Commissioner Mick Fuller told a news conference: “The sheer volume of increase over the last week, the level of compliance has gone from hundreds into thousands.”

The military personnel will not be armed and will be under police command, he said. …

[Australia] is faced with the spread of the much more infectious Indian variant that is proving able to overcome lockdown measures. Many highly vaccinated countries are now re-opening, but Australia is sticking to its ‘Zero Covid’ strategy while its vaccine drive lags behind the rest of the world.   

Sydney’s latest surge of cases has been traced back to an unmasked, unvaccinated airport driver who got infected last month. Since then, Australia’s biggest city has reported 13 deaths.

Worth reading in full.

Boris Johnson Faces Rebellion on Vaccine Passports From Within Cabinet

The number of Tory MPs who say they will vote against the Government on vaccine passports has increased slightly to more than 50. Even more encouraging is that criticism of Boris Johnson’s plans is coming from within Cabinet, with one member saying: “It’s not who we are.” MailOnline has the story.

Mr Johnson is facing a fresh headache, with some of the opposition [to vaccine passports] reported to be coming from ministers in his own Cabinet, who believe the policy was “railroaded” through by Michael Gove.

One told the Times: “I’m not comfortable with the Government being able to use health information to cut off access to certain parts of society.

“This is the kind of thing that Dominic Cummings would endorse. It’s not who we are. Once you start doing these things where do you stop? We need to tread very carefully here. There are concerns across the cabinet about denying people their freedoms.’

Another added: “My concern is that this is destabilising the party. A carrot approach is far better than a stick approach. We shouldn’t be taking people’s liberties away, we should be encouraging them.”

Dominic Raab and Grant Shapps are among the senior members of the cabinet to praise businesses who have not allowed unvaccinated staff to return to the office, amid concerns the Government is encouraging a ‘jabs for jobs’ policy.

Experts have warned companies doing so may face legal action, with fears of a host of discrimination claims sparking calls for ministers to outlaw such policies. 

A worker who is forced to have a jab would be suffering an “intrusion” on their body, advice from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development claims.

As a result, firms “cannot forcibly vaccinate employees or potential employees” unless legally required to do so, according to the group, which represents HR professionals.

Care home staff is the only sector that so far is subject to mandatory Covid jabs, although reports suggest the Government has been looking in other areas too. …

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has also advised against blanket ‘No Jab, No Job’ policies, according to the Sun, particularly given medical reasons prevent some people from getting the vaccine.

But huge firms in the U.S., including Facebook and Google, have already insisted employees must probe [sic] they’ve received doses before going back to work.

Worth reading in full.

Plans to Bar Unvaccinated University Students From Lectures and Halls Shelved

Earlier this week, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told university students they would have to wait until September to find out whether they would be required to show proof of vaccination to attend lectures and to live in halls. But the plans, which have received heavy criticism from the University and College Union (UCU) and the National Union of Students (NUS), have now been shelved, according to reports. BBC News has the story.

The idea of making vaccines compulsory for university students… was not ruled out by either Education Minister Vicky Ford or Downing Street when asked about it earlier this week.

And asked whether vaccination would be mandatory for students returning to halls of residence, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said a decision would be taken in September. 

“We will certainly make sure university students have advance warning, of course we’re going to be mindful of this,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday.

But now the idea of requiring students in England to show proof of vaccination to attend lectures or stay in halls of residence has been shelved, the BBC has been told.

The Governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are in charge of their own coronavirus rules and education policy. 

Unions have been critical of making vaccines mandatory for university students. 

The UCU previously said this would be wrong and “hugely discriminatory against those who are unable to be vaccinated” as well as for international students. 

And the NUS had called the idea “appalling”, accusing the Government of “lining students up as scapegoats”. …

From the end of September, ministers have said people will need proof of full vaccination to attend nightclubs and other crowded venues in England. 

The full details of the plan are yet to be seen but an NHS Covid Pass – which you can obtain electronically or as a letter – will be used as proof.

Worth reading in full.

Pop-Up Vaccine Clinics Opening at Festivals to Persuade Young Brits to Get ‘Jabbed’

Music festivals, football stadiums and circuses are among the venues encouraging attendees to get a Covid vaccine at pop-up clinics in an attempt to combat lower vaccination rates among the young. BBC News has the story.

Spectators and passers-by at the Circus Extreme in Halifax were being offered a jab outside a tent of jugglers, acrobats and stunt performers.

John Haze, Circus Director, said: “It may not be the normal thing you expect to see when you enter the Circus Extreme Big Top, but we are really proud to be supporting the NHS Covid vaccination programme.

“We had no hesitation in letting the NHS host a walk-in clinic in the tent so that more people can get their jab at a convenient time, and we hope lots [of] people will take up this offer.”

Two festivals in London hosting walk-in clinics include a bus parked at the Summer of Love Festival in Holland Park and a four-day vaccine event with live music in Poplar. 

Burnley FC in Lancashire and the Goodwood Racecourse in West Sussex, which is hosting the Stewards Cup, were among other venues being used in the vaccine push with football fans being offered Pfizer doses.

GP Dr Nikki Kanani, Deputy Lead for NHS England’s vaccination programme, said more than 2,000 sites had already taken part, including Thorpe Park in Surrey. …

She said more than 70 million doses had been delivered with “87% of adults having had at least one dose, and seven in 10 now fully-vaccinated”.

But the latest figures show nearly a third of young adults aged 18 to 29 in the country have still not had one jab.

Judging from the poor response to the offer of free food alongside a ‘jab’ by a vaccine clinic at an East London festival this weekend, this form of “coaxing” isn’t working very well. “Vegan burgers, mac ’n cheese and Chinese dumplings were enough to tempt [one unvaccinated festival-goer], but others who are unvaccinated were not taking the bait,” the Sun reports.

The BBC News report is worth reading in full.

Quarter of Older Adults in U.K. Less Fit and in More Pain After Lockdown

The physical and mental health of millions of older Brits has deteriorated over the past year of lockdowns, with more than a quarter saying they can no longer walk as far as they used to and almost a fifth feeling less confident leaving the house alone, according to new research.

The Charity Director of Age U.K. says that encouraging older people to remain in their homes, away from their families and from the wider community, has left “deep physical and emotional scars“. The Glasgow Times has the story.

People reported being less steady on their feet, struggling to manage the stairs and feeling less independent since the start of the crisis, according to polling for Age U.K.

Some 27% of adults aged 60 and over said they could no longer walk as far, while 25% said they were in more pain.

It also found evidence of accelerated cognitive decline, with more than a fifth (22%) of respondents saying they were finding it harder to remember things.

The charity fears the adverse effects may prove long-lasting and in some cases be irreversible, heaping pressure on NHS and social care services over the coming years.

Some 1,487 people aged 60 and over in the U.K. were polled by Kantar Polling between January 28th and February 11th, during the third national lockdown.

Extrapolated to the U.K. population, the findings suggest that millions of older people have seen their health decline following multiple lockdowns, social distancing measures, the loss of routines and support and limited access to services.

The charity also found that some people living with a mental health condition saw their symptoms exacerbated, while others were feeling depressed or anxious for the first time.

More than a third (36%) of respondents said they were feeling more anxious since the start of the pandemic, and 43% said they were less motivated to do the things they enjoy. …

People also gave more detail about their struggles through an online survey, which received 14,840 responses.

They spoke of crying daily due to loneliness, feeling like a prisoner and having had their confidence and purpose “sapped”.

Caroline Abrahams, Age U.K.’s Charity Director, said it may take some time for older people to rebuild their confidence, urging people to “keep supporting the older people in your lives”.

She said: “Our research found that earlier this year, immobility, deconditioning, loneliness, and an inability to grieve as normal, were leaving deep physical and emotional scars on a significant proportion of our older population.”

Worth reading in full.